Dolby Laboratories has licensed their Dolby EX sytems to Lucasfilm’s THX division for consumer-product applications as part of LucasFilm’s THX Ultra licensing program. THX Surround EX as it is now called adds a center rear channel to the existing 5.1 speaker surround setup to balance out the surrounds.
Now, a number of manufacturers have announced products that will allow playback of EX-recorded movies in your home theater. According to THX, New Line’s DVD release of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me will be the first disc to contain an EX-enabled audio track, and other potential candidates for this format are Star Wars-Episode 1, The Astronaut’s Wife and The Haunting, when DVD version will become available, since they had been theatrically released using this new format.
But also a number of upcoming films like Toy Story 2, Bats, Chicken Run, The Fight Club, Minority Report, End of Days, House on Haunted Hill, Spooky House, The Bone Collector and Pitch Black are utilizing EX soundtracks that could potentially be converted to DVD releases.
JBL, Lexicon, Onkyo and Mark Levinson are four manufacturers that are reportedly working on EX-enabled consumer products for introduction to the market at a later date.
Will EX replace 5.1 Dolby Digital then? No, certainly not, but since the format is backwards compatible to standard Dolby Digital tracks it can become a welcome enhancement. If you happen to have an EX-enabled set-up, the DVD will make use of it, if not, you will automatically hear a regular 5.1 channel audio track. Singled-out releases that are sold separately, like we see with DTS soundtracks will certainly not appear.